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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Third parties’ morally-motivated responses to mistreatment in organizations O'Reilly, Deborah Jane


Why do third parties, individuals who are not the direct target of an act of mistreatment, attempt to either punish the perpetrator or help the victim? Starting with the basic proposition that third parties intervene when they perceive an act of mistreatment as morally wrong and that intervening is the morally right thing to do, I construct a model of third parties’ morally-motivated responses to others’ mistreatment. I draw from theories of deontic justice, moral intuitions, moral identity and moral emotions to explain why some third parties will be motivated to respond while others will not. I incorporate third party power, in the form of personal resources and hierarchical position, to provide a more nuanced explanation of how third parties will respond once motivated to do so in an actual workplace setting. In Studies 1 to 3, I test the basic propositions of my model. Study 1 finds that moral anger mediates the relationship between third parties’ moral identity and injustice cognitions. Study 2 finds that moral anger mediates the relationship between third parties’ moral identity and punishment. Study 3 finds that resource power is associated with helping the victim and indirect punishment and that relative position power is associated with direct and indirect punishment. In Studies 4 to 6, I extend my research to consider whether third parties react differently depending on the type of justice violation. I test the proposition that third parties’ moral reactions are stronger in response to interpersonal injustice than the other types of injustice commonly studied in the organizational sciences. I find evidence for the stronger impact of interpersonal injustice in comparison to distributive injustice (Studies 4 and 5) and procedural injustice (Study 6). I conclude with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications of this dissertation.

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